SYDNEY – Researchers in Australia have developed a tiny device that generates electrical stimuli in the brain and that could contribute to the treatment of epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, academic sources reported Tuesday.
The device, called a Stentrode, is four millimeters in diameter and is implanted without the need for invasive surgery through a small keyhole incision in the neck into a blood vessel adjacent to the brain’s motor cortex to emit localized stimuli.
The research involved several medical and academic institutions and a Melbourne-based company and has now shown the device can not only listen to brain signals but also talk back, to directly target specific areas of the brain.
It’s the first time this type of brain stimulation has been achieved with a device permanently implanted inside a blood vessel, instead of through invasive direct brain stimulation, a statement from the University of Melbourne said.
This technology opens the door to treatments for diseases such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s as well as mental illnesses such as major depression and spinal cord injuries.
“We can now target both the motor cortex (responsible for planning, control and execution of movements) and the sensory cortex (which receives feedback about actions) with one device,” said lead researcher Dr Nick Opie from the University of Melbourne’s Vascular Bionics Laboratory.
“This means we could, for example, help spinal cord patients use a prosthetic arm by commanding it to grab an item, and then providing feedback on that action so they don’t grab it too hard or too soft.”
Next, the team will investigate stimulation parameters before progression to human trials.